Thursday, August 16, 2018

Unexpected Bumps and Turns

It has been a while since my last blog post. To be honest, I haven't been writing all that much, and I'm still trying to recover from major surgery, this one not related to my feet or limbs, though there might be one more coming up to correct an issue many people told me was in my head. An x-ray showed otherwise. I'm somewhat uncomfortable. The surgery went well, but, as expected, healing is filled with a lot of ups and downs. I've had a few very hard days, but I've managed to get back to work and have done some light exercise in addition to my normal daily activities. Mostly, I'm feeling on the worn out side.

I thought it would be good for me to try to be more social. Unfortunately, going through this has only made me want to isolate more. It's really difficult for me to be out in the world right now. For the most part, I go to work and don't have a ton of interaction with others outside of that. I've made some exceptions by going to watch a few track and road races, mostly to support a friend, but otherwise, I'm keeping to myself more and more. The doctor said to expect some depression, so I'm doing what I can to weather it, only I'm not all that sure what steps to take other than a "fake it 'til you make it" approach.

Probably the best thing going on in my life lately is miso-mayo. I got addicted after my coworker and I ordered origini from a little cafe nearby. The miso-mayo one was the best, though all of the ones we tired were good. Still, I started making my own at home, and now I'm finding miso-mayo is good on a lot of foods.

Yeah, I know this is a lame post. I'm in a funk, and I don't have a lot going on in my life, except figuring out how to pay the enormous medical bills after the surgery. Holy shit those are outrageous.

Saturday, June 16, 2018

What Outside Magazine Got Wrong

I wish online social media fuss didn't bother me as much as it sometimes does, but here I am writing another post on an article that derails the conversation about young athletes we should be having, one that includes how to properly guide them into a long and successful career. These kinds of situations are distracting, but I feel it's important to offer my viewpoint given my past as an athlete and my desire to continue mentoring others. This is a serious topic, so I don't like when people hamper progress in an area by quibbling over minor details. When there's a fire raging, you don't stop to yell about the dirt on the floor. 

For whatever reason, the article in the New York Times I mentioned earlier caused a lot of commotion. People stomped onto Twitter to say a lot of things about it. A few even suggested men shouldn't write about female issues. Imagine applying that logic to all areas, and you start to see how ridiculous an idea this is. But then a different man wrote something these same individuals agreed with, and it suddenly became OK for men to write about these topics.

It's unfortunate that so many people are misinterpreting the NYT article. The author, Mathew Futterman, recently mentioned on Twitter that his intention was to address the pressures young athletes experience. Could he have done it better? Probably, but nobody is suggesting puberty is the culprit or that the cruel twist Futterman mentions is the female body itself. The puzzle is why so many promising young female athletes have, as Kara Goucher put it, a "bumpy" experience when it comes to their running careers. The conversation should be about how to better support young athletes. Instead, despite the author's clarification, Outside Magazine Online decided it was necessary to slam the piece and insisted the article would somehow teach athletes to fear maturity. This isn't the first time Outside has published an article specifically to bitch about a New York Times article, either. It should be noted that the Outside article came out days after Futterman clarified his position.

A few errors that stood out to me in the Outside Magazine piece are listed below.


1.

"The article quickly changes tack, however, in order to make the point that many top female high school runners fail to live up to their early promise because of changes to their physique. One of the “cruelest twists in youth sports,” it seems, is that girls become women."

No, this isn't what the article stated or even suggested. It suggested that the pressures young female athletes experience, especially those who have had some success early, to keep their former form as their bodies change is why you often see disordered eating patterns, overtraining, and body image issues develop, and this is ultimately why  many of them don't have continued success in their sport and why the success of those who manage well later isn't always a straight progression. As I mentioned before, it most definitely does not say that the cruel twist is puberty itself, becoming a woman, or a woman's changing body.  

Puberty is natural. How society and many coaches view it may not be. We also look at mothers who have recently given birth and expect them to be back to their pre-baby bodies too quickly. The focus is relentlessly on women's bodies. That's the problem. We don't need to be defined as strong or thin or fit or fat. We need new ways of looking at women altogether. THAT is the problem. People reinforcing diet culture, fitspiration, thinspiration, and posting images that strictly define women as something to look at that put unnecessary attention on the body only are a big part of the problem. Keep in mind I'm talking about athletes here, though this happens in the world at large, too. 

The New York Times article is not the problem, far from it. All it did was point out something that happens that many of us observe or have even gone through and offer ideas about how to possibly prevent burnout, injuries, and disordered eating from occurring in a specific population. Another problem is that we aren't willing to look at statistics and information objectively anymore. Bill Mahr is right when it comes to outrage. People get riled up over someone who's actually trying to help instead of addressing the bigger issues in society and the root issues. 

2.

"Others criticized the author’s decision to cite Mary Cain, another high school standout from New York, as an example of a former teenage star whose career has “largely stalled.” Cain, as more than one person noted, has only just turned 22 and hence still has several years to develop and improve."

Nobody said Mary Cain's career is over, but it has stalled. That's an observation, not a criticism. There's nothing wrong with that at all. It just is. It doesn't mean she won't run well later or even soon. Still, she's missing what could be some of her most enjoyable years as a competitor, and there's no indication that she will return to the sport. Whether or not she does is nobody's business, really, but to pretend she's not like many others who had extra bumps in the road isn't being realistic. Bringing her up at all was only to mention that Tuohy and her team are aiming to try things differently and keep social media pressure and other stresses off of her as much as possible. I already addressed this in my last blog post. Whatever Mary does, she has already placed herself among the best of the best in running. If she likes, she has every right to rest on her laurels. If not, she has plenty of time to continue her running career. Nobody is denying that. 

3. 
Right before speculating about Tuohy's future and comparing her to another young athlete who set a world record, the author had this to say:
"As for Tuohy and her fellow high school runners, I think Fleshman and Goucher are right in that we should forswear speculating about their future potential."

The whole thing is rather confusing presented this way because we are supposed to acknowledge and celebrate her success, but only if we do it in the context of "her current athletic level." Despite the fact that this young lady is breaking course records and has two national high school records, we are NOT supposed to call her a prodigy defined as a person, especially a young one, endowed with exceptional qualities or abilities. No, that would be BAD and put too much pressure on her. 


In my opinion, what's more problematic than pointing out the prevalence of female runners who struggle to have a steady progression with large stretches of smooth sailing or calling someone with talent a prodigy is discounting or outright denying the number of times runners, even those who have had tremendous success, go through career-ending or potential career-ending struggles. I know at least three female Olympians who had major slumps early in their careers. Not that my personal observations mean anything, but there's a difference between a difficult transition and dropping out or being forced out of a sport you love early. This isn't to say women should achieve the same statistics or aim for the same type of progression as men; it's just pointing out that there is a difference and questioning why. 

What we should be addressing are how coaches can better guide young female athletes through the changes they naturally experience and how to keep the pressure off them so that the temptation isn't to try to hold onto an unrealistic standard. Encourage building strength so that they don't fall into disordered eating patterns or attempt unrealistic training schedules that their bodies may not be ready to handle. 


Though this wasn't the main topic of either article and is, perhaps, somewhat unrelated, we also need to be more aware and not deny the prevalence of eating disorders and body image issues at the elite running level. We also need to stop stereotyping those with eating disorders and other mental issues and stop focusing only on how someone looks as an indicator of wellness. Those who struggle don't choose a disorder and don't use it primarily to gain an advantage athletically. Mental illness is not a method of cheating. Implying otherwise certainly doesn't help resolve any issues young female runners might experience. 





Monday, June 11, 2018

Outrage

Recently, I saw some Tweets expressing outrage about an article in the New York Times. I clicked the link expecting to be horrified by the content and, instead, found a very cautiously written piece on young female athletes. I read and reread the article, trying to see the cause of all this anger. It seems people often want to shoot the messenger instead of get to the root of the problem.

The article actually addresses something Brad, Kevin, and I discussed at our book signing. An audience member asked us why so many young, successful female athletes disappear after high school. Asking the question doesn't make anyone the bad guy. These are important issues that need to be discussed. As the article points out:

...since 1980, just one female winner of the Foot Locker National Cross Country Championships has made an Olympic team, compared with seven male high school champions. Just four have won an individual N.C.A.A. championship, but none of those were in cross-country.

In regard to the changes young females and young female athletes experience at the onset of puberty, Melody Fairchild offers her perspective in a thoughtful and measured response by saying:



That is not a sustainable thing,” Fairchild said in an interview from her home in Colorado, where she is a personal running coach. Even more dangerous, she added, is the message young women get when they are encouraged to fight to regain their high school physiques. “We want them to embrace being in a strong woman’s body.

Then the article goes into how Tuohy, a runner who is already breaking course records in cross country and track, her parents, and her coach are doing what they can to avoid mistakes they see others made. They are limiting her mileage, doing what they can to keep media attention to a minimum, encouraging her to stay in school and not go pro, and working to keep her healthy and her life balanced.


There's already a healthier trend in high school running programs that, fortunately, encourages young women to embrace their strength. Things are definitely different now than they were in the 80s, though there's still a very long way to go. Still, sayings related to being thin to win are no longer the norm. It should be noted, too, that nowhere in this article does it suggest you have to be thin to be successful. Nowhere in the article does it say or suggest that puberty is the problem. It very clearly states that the issue isn't staying thin but not building strength to sustain changes that naturally occur at puberty. There is a huge difference, an enormous one. In fact, the article suggests that a false assumption that an athlete has to stay lean is what often leads to disordered eating and low self-esteem and, eventually, the common crash and eventual disappearance of promising female athletes after high school.

I could spend more time on this and go through the article sentence by sentence, but that's it in a nutshell. I think people are misinterpreting the content of the article and taking a few lines out of context. For me, there are bigger battles to fight when it comes to what's going on in our society to promote, intentionally or not, unhealthy eating and lifestyle patterns, and mustering outrage at a pretty sensibly written article isn't on my list of time well spent. 


Sunday, June 10, 2018

Race Report

I'm not sure how I feel about that race. Going into it, everything seemed to play out smoothly. I wasn't all that well-rested, but I wasn't overly fatigued either. I'm probably not training hard enough to be at this point. Surprisingly, I got enough sleep and woke up in time to get myself to the start line, a feat that has been a challenge for me in recent years. Long gone are the days I used to be out the door by 6:15 a.m. for my regular runs.

The 5K in Louisville provided a fun but not fast course with a few sharp turns and some rolling hills. After a somewhat rocky start with a kid 400 meters into things randomly and suddenly deciding to turn at a 90-degree angle and bolt from my left side right in front of me and then to my right, which caused me to stagger step which wasn't good for my body or my morale, I jumped into an unfamiliar pace that was somewhere between too fast and race pace, though I could have just been nervous and feeling mechanically off. Eventually, my pace settled into something more sustainable. Once again, I got lost in thought in the second mile and forgot to actually race. My confidence decided to wander off and left me alone to question what I was doing and how much my body could handle. In the third mile, my leg started doing its weird clicky thing and got a bit stiff. In fact, for two days after the race, I worried I had gone past the not quite injured zone and into the injured one, but, fortunately, by the third day, things felt much better.

It's embarrassing to note that I ran over 22 minutes, but it was enough to place 5th and win the old folk's division, which also means I won my age group division. That was nice. For now, my big issue is the endometriosis monster that sometimes sleeps fitfully but is always noticeably present in my abdomen. When it gets angry, it flares up and howls as if it's trying to claw its way out, but it usually settles back down within a day or two. The cramping and pain can be almost unbearable, and, unfortunately, I'm looking at laparoscopic surgery as a solution in the coming weeks. It's not a cure but should help reduce the severe pain I've been experiencing.

I continue to do physical therapy for my legs and feet and also see a chiropractor, one that isn't among the many quacks out there. He's legit, and I notice a difference since I started seeing him. The surgery will be a setback, but I'm hoping I can actually start training and maybe build up some confidence and learn how to race again.

Thursday, June 7, 2018

Stereotypes and Anorexia

I was given a prompt to write about stereotypes in the eating disorder community. I'm a firm believer that we are all unique and that one condition will never look exactly the same on someone else. 

Any time anyone overgeneralizes about a group of individuals, it reinforces possibly incorrect beliefs held in general society. It's true that some stereotypes have a basis for being formed and aren't necessarily harmful or hurtful, but others are used to demean and repress certain groups of people. When it comes to eating disorders, we come in all sizes, shapes, colors, and genders. There is no one specific look that exemplifies eating disorders. In fact, there isn't even a look that's specific to anorexia. Those who are not emaciated can still suffer from the illness. You can't tell if a person has an eating disorder by merely looking at him or her, and not all underweight people have anorexia nervosa. Anorexic or not, there are plenty of people, especially on the internet, who knowingly or unknowingly promote an unhealthy lifestyle, diet culture, and/or extreme thinness. I have addressed those who are unwell and pretend they're not while promoting their unhealthy ways in previous blog posts


The typical myth floating around regarding anorexia is that people who suffer from the illness are generally thin, white, female, relatively wealthy, and controlling. It's starting to become more widely accepted, however, that anorexia and other disorders affect men and those in the LGBTQ community as well. It's also becoming common knowledge that having an eating disorder is not a choice, is not considered cheating in sports, and it isn't a lifestyle to be admired. In 2013, several groups of researchers looked at brain imaging, and the results suggested that anorexia is a neurological disorder. Specifically, those with eating disorders show dullness in the insulas but overactivity in the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex. This suggests that anorexia is more than purely a behavioral issue. 


Statistics around eating disorders vary, but the one thing that's clear is that eating disorders are the most deadly of all mental illnesses. Because the incidence of bulimia is increasing, there are now almost as many deaths occurring with bulimics as with anorexics and those with EDNOS. It may seem unfair that more attention is directed toward anorexia, but when anywhere between 5-10% of anorexics die within 10 years of the onset of the illness, time isn't on our side. Early detection is important, and treatment is crucial. As much as I agree that awareness needs to be showered on all eating disorders, there's no denying the fact that anorexia and related illnesses can kill quickly. 

It should be noted that I support the HAES movement, but there are some points that a very small group of individuals associated with the movement see differently than I do. I agree that, in general terms, fat people are discriminated against more, and that weight doesn't necessarily determine health. But thin people face some of the same problems as those who don't fall into the unrealistic beauty standard set by society. For example, anorexics also go to the doctor wondering if they will be heard and not discounted because of their diagnosis. Doctors often think whatever real illness we face is self-induced because of our eating disorders. We also get called names and get ugly stares in the streets. People tell us how and what we "should" be eating. Somehow we are expected to keep quiet about this because, oh, I don't know, somebody else has it worse or something. Obviously, I understand the major differences and the different stigmas of the two situations, but you just can't look at someone and make assumptions. 

My main point is that drawing attention to anorexia doesn't mean ignoring other illnesses. Just like people can support raising awareness around the diminishing population of mountain gorillas without discounting that of the blue whale, it's not impossible to call attention to those suffering from anorexia without discounting the severity and the symptoms of others who have different eating issues. 

Looking at someone, it's also impossible to know her history, and many people with eating disorders have struggled with multiple types of illnesses. For example, it's not unheard of for those who have been obese to become anorexic or fluctuate between heavier and lighter weights. You just never know the inner struggles of someone by looking at her outer appearance. Fat or thin, you don't know if she struggles with depression, addiction, poor self-esteem, anxiety, OCD, bipolar, or any other mental illness or condition. Many of us have had experience being at both ends of the spectrum, bullied and teased for being "too" fat at one time and "too" thin at another. 

Ultimately, try to have a little compassion. Avoid making judgments, and treat others who are struggling with the same compassion you would like to receive. 





Monday, May 14, 2018

Maturity and Emotions

The other day, one of my best friends and I were discussing grief and letting go. Both of us have a hard time processing loss, and many people, especially in the United States, are uncomfortable with other people's emotional pain. Most of us aren't taught how to weather our emotions. Instead, we're expected to shut down and move the fuck on, as if it's possible to ignore the turmoil we experience while grieving. In cases of relationships ending, this process can be even more difficult when one person sets the rules around the situation without considering how each of us might need something different in order to heal.

Often, others look at those of us who are sensitive and emotional as immature when it's more often the case that anyone suggesting emotions can be shut off like a faucet is the one who's too immature to handle either his own or someone else's emotions or both. In this country, the suggested solution of dealing with emotions is to take something for it, a dose of cheer up, bitch (STM reference). We get labeled weak, crazy, overly emotional, or hysterical, tactics of oppression. We are made to feel worse about ourselves because we don't close ourselves off immediately and hide from the world, though I admit I've done that in certain situations. Still, how anyone deals with loss is personal and shouldn't be judged, unless actions taken in the process are infringing on someone else, of course. Reacting and feeling are two different things.

Those who can't or don't want to witness your emotions or deal with your feelings might put you down for simply experiencing and handling a situation in a different way. Discounting another person is unfair and cruel. I suppose in terms of partnerships that's why those who start off as friends first have a better chance of a healthy parting. There's always the friendship to fall back on, though no breakup is ever easy. When it's a marriage that's ending, there's more than the emotional aspects to consider.

I'm probably not the best person to be doling out relationship advice. I've been told I'm not relationship material, not marriage material, not model material (even though that doesn't really matter or shouldn't in this case), too fucked up, and am pretty much only good for a fuck buddy type situation if that. Being in a relationship was never high on my priority list anyway, though, so it's no big surprise that I suck at them. Fuck it, though, I can care about people and love deeply. It's just that it doesn't always translate into anything productive. Highly sensitive people often have a hard time communicating, especially in potentially volatile or emotional situations. We think too far ahead and worry about outcomes instead of being fully present and trusting our immediate feelings.

In my own case, I generally only like being around people in small doses and need a lot of alone time in order to feel more comfortable around others. That's not exactly the best way to develop deeper connections with anyone. I do have some insight when it comes to human interaction, though, and deep down I'm a romantic at heart. I sometimes like being around a few select people, and I love hearing about that deep Romeo and Juliette type partnership, the kind in which one wouldn't want to live without the other, though I'm not a fan of offing yourself if things don't work out in the end. I mean, fuck that. There's plenty to offer the world as a single person. It's just nice to think that there might be that kind of passion in the world, not just for another human being either.

As I was discussing all of this with my friend, it got me thinking about how often women, in particular, are discounted when it comes to physical pain as well, a topic I've been meaning to address but keep putting off for some reason. At some point, I will buckle down and write out my thoughts, but for now, I'm sitting back and noticing that discounting emotional pain is similar to discounting physical pain. If someone is doing this to you, know that your feelings are valid, and your pain is real. Find others who will hear you, and don't let anyone belittle you for wearing your heart on your sleeve. I fully believe the world would be a better place if so many of us weren't closed off from our feelings.

“If you are willing to look at another person’s behavior toward you as a reflection of the state of their relationship with themselves rather than a statement about your value as a person, then you will, over a period of time cease to react at all.”


― Yogi Bhajan



Sunday, May 6, 2018

Food Addiction

I want to make sure that people who read this post don't think I'm suggesting anything about weight or diet. I'm not. I feel like I should put that in bold red lettering. I'm presenting information and don't necessarily have an opinion one way or another; I'm just interested in the ongoing research on addiction, especially regarding the brain. When discussing obesity, eating disorders, addiction, and diet in this post, I'm only drawing on information I've found that I feel is credible, so rest assured that I'm not promoting anything or suggesting anything about anyone. Take what is useful to you and leave the rest.

My writing here is done entirely without judgment. To make it clear, I support your right to choose how you want to live your life and make no assumptions about you based on appearance or lifestyle. I am absolutely not suggesting anything about anyone's willpower in this post and am not implying anything about what people should or shouldn't eat. 

In my previous post on low-carb dietsI may not have been clear enough that I don't deny the evolving research on obesity and insulin sensitivity, just like I don't deny the research (that also needs further testing) that shows a Keto diet adversely affects test results that require a higher order of mental processing and flexibility, however, the one thing in common is that all of these studies address specifics, not overall wellbeing. In one two-week study, for example, it was determined that a ketogenic diet MAY substantially increase insulin sensitivity in obese subjects with type 2 diabetes. I don't dispute this.  

My main point is that research in nutrition science is more often than not flawed, and, more importantly, a diet is basically ineffective if people can't stick to it. My caution to anyone who claims there's "all this research" around a certain issue is to look at as many studies as you can find and decide for yourself whether or not the sample size in each was large enough, the duration of the study was sufficient, the research conducted was controlled as much as possible, and the results were presented accurately without any speculation or false correlations. Additionally, as was the case in several sugar and obesity studies, animal models don't always accurately predict what happens in humans. In the words of Gary Taubes:


 Anecdotes are often the basis of quackery – but not always. Much of reliable medical knowledge emerged initially from anecdotal observations. Medical science can be thought of as a process that begins with such observations and, through relentless testing of hypotheses, eventually generates truth.


There's no doubt that anyone can have a predisposition to either drug use or eating disorders or both, but having a predisposition doesn't guarantee a specific outcome. There are other factors involved. When it comes to addiction, there are slight physiological differences between dependence on a substance and what people call an addiction to food. From a genetic standpoint, the allele that's most often present and considered a risk factor in cases of addiction is rarely present in those who are obese or have eating disorders. Looking at the central nervous system, it's not surprising that people oversimplify the effects of addiction because incredibly complex systems are involved. It's important to understand that neurotransmitters aren't limited to one area of the brain. There are billions of neurons and trillions (yes, that's with a "t") of connections in our brains.

In the case of dopamine, the neurotransmitter most associated with addiction, there are several dopaminergic pathways (dopamine is also found outside of the central nervous system), but most people focus only on the one associated with reward-seeking behavior. Specifically, the mesolimbic tract is associated with drug use rather than the mesocortical tract that's associated with eating disorders. The mesocortical tract connects the ventral tegmentum (sort of like the brain's superhighway) to the prefrontal cortex and plays a role in planning, cognitive function, and emotional response, among other things. Dopamine elsewhere in the central nervous system is involved with much more than reward-seeking, including but not limited to motor control, sexual gratification, and motivation. In other words, it can't be targeted in isolation. In addition, dopamine isn't the only neurotransmitter involved with addiction or addiction-like behavior, and the dopamine pathway isn't the only pathway involved, either. Depending on the type of drug, mu-opioids, GABA, acetylcholine, and others can play a role.

It may be that the outcome is similar in terms of potential interference with life, but food addiction is largely considered a behavioral addiction rather than a literal substance addiction. When it comes to food addiction, it's more the act of eating that's addicting, at least from a neurological standpoint. That's not to say that foods don't affect the brain's chemistry. All foods do to some extent, but the way people eat and eating disorders, in particular, affect hormone levels (leptin, insulin, ghrelin) that can eventually affect the brain's chemistry. Drugs, on the other hand, act directly on either neurotransmitters or on the cells that regulate neurotransmitters. The difference is subtle but important.

According to the 2014 Behavioral and Neuroscience Review that addressed the hypothesis that sugar is addicting:

Addiction-related behaviors in sugar consumption (such as tolerance and a withdrawal syndrome) have not been observed in humans (Benton, 2010). Instead, most observational and mechanistic evidence for addiction to sugar comes from rat models pioneered in Bart Hoebel's laboratory.


This means that addiction to sugar was not seen in humans, only in rats though observational and mechanistic evidence. These findings support the idea that in humans, sugar addiction is more of a behavioral addiction and not a substance addiction. The same was found to be true of other palatable foods. When people talk about coffee or chocolate withdrawal, a headache, feeling low or emotionally wrecked isn't the same as your body's cells not functioning without the substance on which you have become physically dependent. True withdrawal is extremely painful and can be life-threatening. It's not just feeling meh or a little bit cranky. (I hear that last part being said in the voice of Patton Oswalt for some reason.)

Like with autism and many other illnesses and disorders, our definition of addiction is ever-changing and expanding. It used to be that behaviors were not considered addictions, but they are included in the DSM-5 now, which some people claim has moved away from evidence-based, strict definitions in favor of subjective, broad criteria. It's likely that this is for diagnostic purposes, probably so doctors can prescribe medications or therapy. This isn't to suggest that a psychological addiction isn't potentially dangerous to some, more to illustrate that there are different types of addiction. A psychological addiction can cause a person to feel dependent on a substance such as weed or coffee, but if he or she goes without it, the withdrawal itself won't be deadly. This basically addresses the disease model vs the psychological or medical model of addiction, too. The latter can include just about anything, while the former is considered more of a disease with a source or sources of origin. 

What does this all mean? It depends. For the average person, all this research and speculation mean very little. For someone struggling with addiction or an eating disorder, perhaps it might provide a better understanding of the mechanisms involved in both substance abuse and eating disorders. It probably won't solve problems directly, but it might eventually lead to improved methods of addiction and eating disorder treatment. 

Monday, April 30, 2018

Low-Carb Diets

"What do you need a qualification for? To talk common sense? Why do you have to study something that is outdated, that is industry backed, that is biased, that is not getting the results? That would be insane to study something you're going to waste your time with. That's just crazy," - Pete Evans, celebrity chef & creator of "The Magic Pill"


It seems like not that long ago someone told me I should watch a documentary about going vegan. I reluctantly did and cringed thinking about all the people who believe, incorrectly, that if something is in a documentary, it's true. This isn't always the case. I watched "What the Health" and decided it was not all bad, just not well cited and filled with a good amount of misinformation. At the suggestion of a friend, I also watched "The Magic Pill", a documentary that's also filled with inaccuracies. When there was talk about certain vegetable oils being poison and toxins in the film, I had to roll my eyes. The film is actually identical to "What the Health" right down to the guinea pig trials in which several people who are on loads of pills, have all kinds of illnesses, and are eating all the "wrong" foods try a diet for two weeks and are magically cured of everything they ever had. I don't think anyone would argue that taking a child off a diet of sheer junk and adding pretty much any real food would likely produce beneficial results, but since this is a film about a low-carb diet, that's the one that gets credit for the improvement in one young girl's health.

Almost right out of the gate, there were a bunch of lies in the film "The Magic Pill" that focuses on the Paleo diet, not necessarily the Keto diet, though there is some overlap with low-carb diets and their effects (or lack thereof) on health. Still, people conflate the two, so I will do my best to make the distinction when possible and necessary.

At the beginning of the film, we are told that there are no fat wild animals, which discounts the fact that some animals need to be fat in order to survive their cold climates. It's a slight error, but not the greatest way to start a documentary. Can you imagine a skinny seal doing well in the Arctic? Obviously, this is relative fat and not quite the same as being overweight, however, bears and other wild animals get fat seasonally to prepare for hibernation. If rodents get lucky and find a luxury wooded area that supplies loads of nuts and berries, they, more often than not, get fat. Most animals are too much on the go and can't afford to carry a lot of extra weight, so they are very lean. The movement and lack of an abundant, steady food source are what keep them lean more than their actual diet. Elephants must eat a tremendous amount, so it would be almost impossible for them to be outright fat. They are large animals but relatively lean. Again, this is a minor error but sets the tone for more misleading information to come. But I digress...

Diet for some people is like religion. For many, science doesn't matter when they believe in a way of eating. I'm fine with people digging in their heels and insisting on eating a certain way, but I'm not OK with people spreading lies in an effort to support their ways of eating. Perhaps I'm being harsh, however, the science around nutrition is evolving and largely based on anecdotal and observational data, not hard evidence. It almost has to be. Controlled human studies are rare mostly because they are incredibly expensive, and it's not always considered ethical to place humans in disciplined conditions to run experiments. One problem with observational data and surveys is that they can't control every aspect of a given person's life, even if people were 100 percent honest about their diet and exercise and general lifestyle habits.

Surveys and anecdotal information can be useful in terms of encouraging more credible studies to be done, but even then the promising studies have to be recreated in order to really suggest any kind of cause and effect. Simply noting a possible correlation doesn't mean there is. Vegans are notorious for twisting bits of fact about studies or incorrectly calling surveys studies to support their beliefs. The idea that milk causes cancer is a big one that's not accurate, for example. Now I see that the Keto and Paleo communities are doing the same thing, even though there really are some promising studies relating to insulin sensitivity, obesity, and even heart disease they could be citing instead, though there have yet to be any reliable long-term, repeatable and reputable studies done. A word of caution is that nearly every study relating to heart disease and this kind of diet shows an increase in cholesterol before any notable drop.

Despite the fact that Gary Taubes, an American science writer, is very careful about calling what he promotes in terms of diet a hypothesis and acknowledges that science hasn't yet proven the direct correlation between carbohydrates and sugar and fat storage, people still take this possible link as fact. Most of us can agree that eating more whole foods and less refined sugar is probably beneficial, but there's more to eating Keto and Paleo than that. And people love to take a small bit of truth from a flawed study and twist it into something to support the way they want to eat. For more on that, this article addresses what some of the critics are saying about the whole Paleo movement.

So much of the information relating to diet is based on flawed studies, partly because it takes flawed studies to generate enough interest to get anyone to fund more controlled studies and duplicate studies. Let's face it, though, if the Keto or Paleo diets really worked, obesity and diabetes would be on the decline, not increasing. One of the biggest issues with low-carb diets is that they're difficult to adhere to long-term, so many people get into yo-yo dieting, which wrecks havoc on both the body and mind. A balanced diet is much easier to follow, and general lifestyle is also important. Diet, exercise, sleep, and mental health all play a role in overall wellness. It's ridiculous to think that addressing only one of these would lead to complete health or drastic changes in health.

If the film focused only on diabetes, obesity, and sustainability (and there were some errors in the film regarding that last department as well) I probably wouldn't have felt the need to write such a long blog post. The fact that people try to claim a low-carb diet cures everything from autism and asthma to genital warts (not really) makes me want to write for days, and given all the bullshit in this film, I probably could. On that note, I couldn't help but notice a large number of Dr. Oz types associated with this production. It's funny that TV and celebrity doctors are taken much more seriously than most credible ones, but we live in the age of reality TV.

One of the main contributors to the film, William Davis, author of "Wheat Belly" is fond of claiming that wheat has changed, become some kind of Frankenstein grain that makes people addicted and makes their bellies explode into fatness. This, of course, is based on a study of one, himself, cutting wheat out of his diet in an effort to address his own diabetes and weight. Actually, there was one other study he cited that was done on dead rats. Oh, he also heard a few other people were successful after doing the same, cutting out wheat and becoming superheroes.

When it comes to Dr. Davis' claim that this new wheat is addictive, according to Joe Schwartz, a chemist a McGill University, food, or really the peptides that are created after a person digests food, can bind to opiate receptors in the brain but do not produce a morphine-like effect. I will address so-called food addiction in a separate post, but sorry, Dr. Davis, your theory isn't completely accurate. Also, Dr. Ravi Chabbar, the head of the Saskatchewan project, confirmed that even though wheat has been modified to produce high-yield crops, the basic structure of the grain including the gluten and gliadins is the same as it was in "ancient" times. Strike two. Strike three against Dr. Davis' claims could be some information about low-carb diets being correlated to a higher "all-cause" mortality, but I haven't done enough research to stand by that one yet, though it seems legit.

When it comes to diets curing cancer, "The Magic Pill" uses another anecdote and a hell of a lot of speculation, my God there is a lot of speculation in this film, to suggest that a low carb, high-fat diet can cure cancer. Many research titles are shown, but if you look at the results of these studies, they are not clear-cut. Showing titles like that is misleading. Some of the results of the studies shown read like the following below, promising but not definite. Others aren't even that favorable, and showing the title only, not the method, results, or conclusions, tells viewers zero, absolutely zero:

Although the mechanism by which ketogenic diets demonstrate anticancer effects when combined with standard radio-chemo-therapies has not been fully elucidated, preclinical results have demonstrated the safety and potential efficacy of using ketogenic diets in combination with radio-chemo-therapy to improve responses in murine cancer models. These preclinical studies have provided the impetus for extending the use of ketogenic diets into phase I clinical trials that are currently ongoing.


I admire people a hell of a lot when they are honest and choose whatever kind of diet they do for ethical reasons or simply because, fuck it, life is short and who doesn't want to eat bacon? Whether it's the Keto, Paleo, or vegan diet that calls to you, most people can admit that these are not necessarily the easiest to follow or best diets for the health of every single person worldwide, though some will try to persuade you otherwise.

In conclusion, just like with "What the Health" there are a few good takeaway points with "The Magic Pill." Unfortunately, both films are too filled with dishonest reporting to be all that useful. Take what you see and read with a grain of salt, or wheat, whatever floats your boat.

Oddly, I believe that the producers of these two films probably mean well, but they are so set in their beliefs that they twist the facts. In an interview last year with Sam Harris, I thought Gary Taubes did a good job of being fair. This article sums up a lot of what others think about his take on diet. He always cautions and lets listeners know that he is presenting a hypothesis that needs further testing, which I appreciate. He might be right, but the science just isn't there yet when it comes to overall wellbeing. He got a lot of flack for not properly quoting individuals in his famous New York Times article and misrepresenting some of the findings in various studies, but I have more respect for him than I do many of the others who promote low-carb diets.

I have no dog in this fight. If someone told me this or that diet would make me feel great, run the way I would like to, keep me healthy, and the science was really there to back it, I might give it a try. There are too many conflicting voices in the nutrition and science of nutrition worlds, and none of them address our spiritual or emotional side.

Maybe I do eat too much sugar and refined foods, and that's something I can work on. I'm not going to discount the part of me that occasionally needs food for comfort. I believe that's OK when we are aware, but I also acknowledge that a good diet can make us feel emotionally better, too. It's a lot to consider, but I don't think I will start my day with eggs, bacon, and cheese tomorrow or anytime soon.


Tuesday, April 17, 2018

April Revisited

It's hard to believe another April is quickly rolling to a close, which means I survived another year without my little Romo and managed to avoid another bout of meningitis, which will probably be the norm from here on out, as it's pretty much unheard of for anyone, especially an older individual, to be struck by that kind of illness three times in a lifetime. Compared to the last few months, April seems to be moving along more smoothly.

While I'm not 100 percent injury free, I'm able to put in some solid running and even ran a strong tempo run recently at the CU cross country course in 28:35, not a fast time but a decent one, all things considered. For the first time in a very long time, I didn't feel in over my head on the second lap and ran it with a dose of good sense. I've had a bit of a rough time recovering, but I'm trying to be smart about resting, too. I'm forever battling fears and worries, but I do my best to get out and run anyway.

Despite a bad endometriosis flare-up, a small skin basal cell carcinoma removal, a terrible bout of depression, and a missing IUD that was later found slightly embedded in and later removed from my tilted uterus, things are OK. A few of these issues still need to be addressed, but I'm taking everything as it comes. My job is still going well, and I'm surprisingly optimistic about possibilities in at least some areas of my life.

Obviously, there's not a lot to report here, but I'm trying to be better about noting any improvements, no matter how small. After dealing with a nagging and painful injury over the winter, being able to run at all at this point feels good. I have a long, long way to go before I try jogging with other people, but at least I'm getting outside now and then.


Friday, April 13, 2018

Well, That's Disappointing

I understand more fully why people in the recovery community are upset with Geneen Roth. I was disappointed to find out that she will be participating in some sort of feel-good summit this summer. There are several keynote speakers that, on the surface, look like they have some decent credentials. The problem with this particular event is that it looks more like a good old-fashioned weight-loss camp than anything promoting actual wellness. The website is filled with all kinds of trendy catchphrases that are sure to intrigue you, and right before the claim that it will be a judgment-free zone, there's a nice little bit of bullshit about willpower, more specifically your lack of it that keeps you from experiencing life at its best.

Mark Hyman, who boasts about his ties to Dr. Oz, among many things, leads the Feel Good Summit and offers a "clean food" designer meal plan (red flag) for those attending. Right away, this doesn't sound like an individualized program that takes into consideration people's food preferences or actual needs, and it doesn't sound like the method Geneen Roth previously used and promoted as a way to break free from compulsive eating, quite the opposite, in fact. No diet plan can be predesigned for anyone. Every day, your nutritional needs change, and, more importantly, what you or your body craves does too. If you're given a meal plan designed by someone who doesn't know you or your history, a plan that's exactly like everyone else's, how likely are you to continue eating that way once you're not in a camp-like setting? How restrictive is that plan? How much freedom are you getting through controlling portions and types of food, eliminating "junk" food and opting for "clean" foods instead?

This guy states outright that you shouldn't eat ANY crap. Is that realistic? He insists that if you eat crap, you will feel like crap. Is that accurate for you? It's not for me. I often eat some cookies or chocolate or french fries and feel physically and emotionally good later. Clean food. Shit, dust off a twinkie and eat it if you want and need. Fuck clean eating. It's such bullshit, a marketing tool and nothing more. A healthy diet can include what you want it to. Yes, nutrient-dense foods will give your body a good dose of what it probably needs, but what about enjoying life and feeling good about your choices, even if you choose to eat a bowl of ice cream?

There's a lot of talk about feeding or nourishing yourself so that you can be the best version of yourself possible, or something along those lines, but promoting wellness can be done without frowning upon those who don't follow a clean-eating plan. Overall health is not about skipping dessert. If you haven't figured it out by now, this kind of retreat is a great way for anyone there to sell you their product, a new book, a diet plan, a wellness program, therapy sessions, or one-on-one consultations. They want you to believe that they have the answers and experience profound energy, happiness, and wellness on a daily basis. Oh, one or two will admit they aren't perfect, but the overall message is that you can be as socially accepted as they are, and all you have to do is pay a bunch of money and eat and exercise the way someone else suggests.

Nobody trying to help others lead a healthier life should be promoting the idea that any food is bad or dirty or sinful. Everyone has the right to eat what fuels their body, mind, and soul. Yes, good nutrition usually does help you feel good, but nobody else can define what healthy means for you. The problem with these kinds of restrictive and measured diet plans is that they don't teach awareness. The focus is on eating certain types of foods and avoiding others instead of trusting yourself in your choices and being able to weather whatever emotions and fears come up after you have eaten.

The whole thing seems a little too controlled, but the magic is supposed to happen in three days at the cost of $2,500+, the amount and time it takes to completely transform your life. These kinds of retreats are designed to target people who probably need something deeper, not a weight-loss or "feel-good" plan. Of course, the advertisements aren't addressing weight-loss per se, but there are subtle and not so subtle clues that are obvious to anyone looking. Plus, Mr. Hyman likes to bring the conversation, no matter what's being discussed, back to diet. That's what he's selling, all his fad-diet books including those on detox diets, eating fat and getting thin, and the ultra this and ultra that diets. His speakers promote the bulletproof diet, the archetype diet, genius foods (foods that make you smarter AND happier), and one that suggests you can eat your way to better health. I won't go into the one author who, if you buy her book, wants to tell you how to make every man want you. Is anyone else feeling queasy yet?

Years ago, a friend of mine went to something similar. She was always on a quest to improve her life and lose weight when she didn't really need to, so she signed up for a three-week raw foods retreat. She left a strong, healthy individual and returned looking dangerously thin and so weak that she could no longer run with me and couldn't even complete the hike we did as a substitute for running one day. She insisted she felt great, but she didn't look or act like a specimen of health. I was concerned and let her know. She eventually gained back the weight she lost plus a few extra pounds that she complained about but looked just fine on her body. She was also back to being healthy and able to exercise again.

When I look at retreats and seminars like the Feel Good Seminar, I can't explain all the reasons why they make me cringe. There are so many. I get a physical reaction to all the bullshit they're trying to spread. There's always an air of fat phobia and not a lot of diversity with the presenters, all lean, smiling citizens with extra white teeth and abnormally wide eyes.

I'm sure some people benefit from retreats. If you happen to be looking for more positive ways to spend time away from home, try Women's Quest. Colleen runs programs that are designed to actually support you, not sell you gimmicks.

Monday, April 9, 2018

Same As It Ever Was II

I'm lucky that my job doesn't require me to stand out on social media. Basically, if I aim to do my best in terms of being honest, kind, helpful, and knowledgeable, it usually translates into doing well at work. When I look at how people who rely more heavily on being in the public eye behave, it makes me realize how far we as a society have to go in order to even begin to change the unhealthy but terribly ingrained habits that form the often dangerous beauty standards we constantly see. Most of us are still so very unaware how we contribute to cultural assumptions and norms.

I was late seeing some of the more bizarre takes on the "if you don't love me at my XXX, you don't deserve me at my XXX" meme phenomenon that's occurring on Twitter at the moment. The original quote is: “I’m selfish, impatient and a little insecure. I make mistakes, I am out of control and at times hard to handle. But if you can’t handle me at my worst, then you sure as hell don’t deserve me at my best.” - Anonymous. People initially made some cute or funny memes based on this, but, as they often do, those who crave the spotlight had to join in because everyone else was doing it. Then, all of a sudden, too many people took the opportunity to draw attention to bodies, women's bodies in particular, showing one supposedly less satisfactory image and one glammed up image side-by-side. It didn't take long for pretty much everyone to jump on board with their versions of worst and best, and I noticed a large number of people simply posting images of themselves at a higher weight or slightly less toned contrasted with a more socially accepted image.

My tipping point and why I wrote this post rather than engage with anyone on a social media platform was when someone who has been interviewed as an eating disorder recovery advocate and partnered with an expert to teach a virtual class on body image in 2017, presented an older image of herself shortly after having a baby but still in shape enough to be engaging in a high-intensity sport next to an image of herself looking extremely fit in a fashion show for a women's athletic apparel company. Since a few people already said what I was thinking, there was no need to beat a dead horse and get involved in any direct conversations. It was surprising that she posted something like this, and there was a lot of explaining afterward about how it's really a good thing, somehow aimed at progress, which I fail to see given the meme movement and the images themselves. When a few people called her out on what appeared to many as an odd way to support body positivity, what followed from both her and the clothing company was more than a little concerning. I couldn't help but have a reaction, one that I felt deserved a more measured response on my blog.

Before I even get into what was tweeted, let me remind everyone that it's widely accepted and has been for years that there's a strong correlation between social media and body image concerns. We already know the line between fitspiration and thinspiration is a slim and often blurred one, and the content of the two is often indistinguishable. I'm not going to get into how common it is for images to be stolen and use as pro-ana content. That's a separate issue, but it happens and is one more reason people should be more concerned about the types of images they post. Teens and young adults are especially vulnerable when it comes to being influenced by the messages and images found on social media, but it's not limited to women and girls. Boys and men are also affected, as are people in the LGBTQ community.

Blasting others with images of your body in such a way that draws disproportionate attention to the body itself will always have the potential to negatively affect those who are prone to compare themselves to others and seek approval through their weight, size, or fitness level. This kind of image with a strong emphasis on looks is obviously different from an image of someone simply engaging in a certain activity or enjoying a moment in front of the camera. In the case of the former, excessively promoting images that fit into the narrow definition of our society's warped definition of beauty is likely to negatively influence some, and contrasting two images that focus entirely on the body is certain to cause at least a few people to engage in unhealthy comparisons.

Most individuals post images on social media without thinking about the potential damage they can cause. What's surprising is how many individuals are unaware and uncaring in this area. Can we please just stop it and shift the focus away from women's bodies, period? We don't need new and different ways of looking at the aesthetics of a woman's body. This isn't helpful in the long run because the focus is still on looks rather than wellbeing, health, or anything deeper. Why must everything come back to this?

I know this seems like an impossible task. Everyone has rights and wants and needs, and many people want to get some validation through the images they post. The argument is that everyone wants to look good and be their best versions of themselves, Oprah style, which is all fine; just stop shoving your body parts, toned or not, in our faces and intentionally drawing attention to them at the expense of real content. Nobody should be supporting or encouraging people who post memes and images that very clearly send potentially harmful messages, even if the intentions of the poster are... the best. I'm sure some people will misinterpret what I'm saying and think, incorrectly, that I'm for a world with no images of bodies at all be it in fashion, athletics, or in general. That's not what I'm saying. If you feel that posting images of yourself somehow betters the world, by all means, post away. All I'm doing is presenting another side.

Let me spare you more ruminations and just post some of the thread responses along with my thoughts in red.


Q1: Why is her natural post-partum body at her worst?

(Exactly what I was thinking. Shouldn't this be a highlight in life, especially if you have a child and are able to return to the activities you love?)

 A: Our interpretation of the meme was not that the first image equals worse but more what is real - and not traditionally shared (as LF’s original blog points out). Either way, thank you for the comment.

(Despite the original quote very clearly stating "worst/best," we are somehow supposed to magically know by looking at the images that the OP had a different interpretation. In addition, aren't we the fools for not having read every single word of the OP's blog, especially posts dating back to 2013 and 2014. Shame on us, but since it has been brought to your attention that it's unlikely that anyone would take the images in the way they were supposedly intended, what now?) 


Q2: I think this trend should just be "if you don't love me at my XXX...you don't deserve me." The implication of "non-ideal" photos/bodies as "worst" & "beautiful" photos/bodies as "best" is not a healthy subtext


(This is one of the best responses I have seen. Yes, it's not healthy. I wish more people would understand this.) 

OP: I see it as a powerful way to say “take all of me or have none of me.” I think it subverts rather than endorses simply by encouraging the posting of a range of images as lovable. To each her own!


(OK, fair enough, but what about the message the images send without the added explanation? How many people are going to look at the images and then take the time to read all the responses to get to this explanation?)

Q3: "So let's review this," he said, incredulous. "Oiselle uses strategic lighting and angles so that its athletes look maximally lean and ripped for its ads, and now it's imploring its own target audience to be real about women's bodies."

 Q3: "I really think you should replace your entire marketing department," he said with unconcealed scorn. "I thought the 'Drink Responsibly' crap from booze-peddlers was patently hypocritical, but this is several levels worse."

 OP: For the record, both are my actual body :). And it is worth pointing out that the meme never says “worst” or “best” in reference to the images. Could be “candid” or “posed,” or any number of things. It’s telling that many assume “worst/best!

(Again, the original quote specifically states this, and the answer below couldn't be better, right down to the third-person panache.) 

 Q3: "I didn't assume anything!" he thundered. "But only a fool could fail to note what's implied by this juxtaposition. Oiselle is like virtually every other women's active-wear company in trying to have it both ways. It's as simple as that."

 Q4: Have you looked at their advertising lately? Oiselle makes it a point to have models of various shapes and sizes and clothing to fit them. Maybe you should become informed before you speak.

 Q3: "Well, isn't that sweet!" he trilled. "But the use of bigger models elsewhere has nothing to do with THIS post, which implies that it's OK to look 'normal' IF 'normal' is a temporary condition. I 'get' the intent, but trust me, it backfires."

I don't claim to have all the answers. Free speech includes freedom of expression, and anyone who wants can flaunt her body in any way she sees fit. I just wish more people would consider how easy it is to reinforce unhealthy or unrealistic standards of health, fitness, and beauty when the online audience is so vast. My concern is that if those who consider themselves knowledgeable about eating disorders are unaware of how potentially damaging certain kinds of memes and images can be, you can imagine how little is known about the toxic side of social media in the general public. Given this, it's likely we are going to see more and more people developing eating disorders. And that's why this kind of trend is so upsetting.

Few people take the time to consider the impact the images they post can have. Images send a message in an instant. You don't always have the luxury of looking away before an image pops up in your feed, and whatever message comes from it is internalized quickly. With some posters -- and I'm not suggesting this is the case with this particular situation but I'm sure it happens a lot -- as long as they're getting whatever benefit posting brings them, and as long as they get those reinforcing "likes," it's doubtful anything will change any time soon. One can hope, though. Damn, one can hope.


Saturday, March 24, 2018

That Wild Spring Hair

It seems every year around this time, whether I'm fit or not, I get the wild idea that I want, no need, to do some sort of time trial. Today was definitely not the ideal day for it, but I had already set my mind to doing something, sensible ideas be damned.

I looked back and saw that last year at this time I was excited after running 20:25 or so on my little NCAR road jaunt. Today was not a day for miracles. In addition to the ever-present slight headwind on that road, I had a few mental, physical, and hormonal issues to manage. Also, in case anyone was wondering, swallowing the wrong way while trying to inhale doesn't make a person run faster. Instead of inching closer to that 20-minute barrier, I swung the opposite direction and landed at my finishing point in 20:52, which isn't horrible but shows what a difference fresh legs and a good attitude can make when it comes to going after running goals.

Given today's not so stellar performance, I'm still trying to figure out how a nice, relaxed tempo run on the trails a few weeks ago earned me my fastest time ever, by about three minutes, on one of my favorite little loops up to the Mesa Trail. Considering I was a minute slower to the base of the trail than I was on my fastest day previously, it's hard to figure out how I managed the speedier time. I wondered if my watch was broken, but everything was in working order. I guess not being all that fit leads to unpredictable training and times, but at least I'm running or jogging anyway. I can't say I'm injury free, but I'm not hurting as badly as I was a few months ago. I guess that's some kind of improvement.

I've been trying to think of a way to address pain and pain management. It's going to take some additional thought before I can put everything into words, but I suspect one of my next posts will address this topic. 



Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Please Stop It - A Message To Men

The other day, a friend pointed me to a blog post written by a runner who probably thinks he's smarter and funnier than he actually is. The post, not an article as he mistakenly called it, was about Desi Linden and was written in 2017. In it, the author claims that his readers might have a hard time finding articles about Linden because she's not pretty. That was one of may idiotic statements, but I'm primarily addressing this one since I would likely be here for days if I attempted to get into all the bizarre shit this guy claims throughout his blog. He goes on to explain in his post that he's not really the asshole he's presenting himself to be because he just means she's not as pretty as the truly pretty runners who get more press.

OK. Define "more press" and "pretty." Fortunately, Desi's sponsors don't give a fuck that she's not posing for Vogue in her spare time. They are more concerned and impressed with how well she runs. This guy clearly needs glasses and also needs someone to do a little research for him before he runs off with a whole lot of nonsense in his blogging attempts again.

Sports Illustrated featured Desi Linden in one of their 2016 editions, and an ESPN publication also did at least two write-ups on Desi prior to 2017. Runner's World wrote at least six main articles on her in 2016 alone, and there were well over ten feature articles in a span of two years from 2015 to 2016. That's not including any podcasts, Youtube videos, minor articles, or blog posts related to the magazine. From 2014 to 2016, Competitor wrote several articles on her in both their women's edition magazine and their regular magazine. She has her own Wikipedia page, and she wasn't absent from media outlets such as FloTrack, Salty Running, Adventure Sports Network, and even Bon Appetite, to name just a few, prior to this ridiculous blog post coming out.

Does it seem to you that Desi was an unknown in the running world in 2017? Obviously, she wasn't to even those who don't necessarily follow running all that much. I stopped following running for a long time and purposely avoided looking too closely at results and articles, yet I couldn't help but  notice such an outstanding runner. You almost can't avoid hearing about talent and dedication like hers. You would have had to really go a hell of a long way out of your way to avoid bumping into some news about her many running achievements.

None of this matters, really. People lie all the time online. They say stupid shit to try to come off as funny or informed, or they say something untrue to support their odd beliefs. It's bad enough that the blogger lied about a lack of media presence of an incredible athlete, but then he had to take it one step further and objectify not just Desi but all women runners, as if we really give a shit about his subjective grading scale of prettiness in female athletes. We don't. Stop it.

Every time twits like this try to draw attention to the outer appearance of an athlete, they immediately take away from and diminish the competitor's accomplishments. It's an intentional distraction, a way to keep the focus on women's bodies and away from their strengths. I have no idea why people, men especially, feel the need to do this other than possibly because they are insecure, terribly and hopelessly insecure.

It's fine if you have thoughts about someone's appearance. We all do, but most of us are well behaved enough and have enough respect to keep those thoughts to ourselves and not assume that everyone else has the same preference. Talk about a runner being pretty or not has no place in the athletic world. All it does is promote absurd standards that make it difficult for anyone to navigate a world obsessed with looks. We need to stop sending the message that women are never good enough if they aren't also good looking. It's bullshit, complete bullshit.
Related image
The look of an amazing athlete.




Related image
Desi at her wedding looking quite beautiful.

Monday, March 12, 2018

Intuitive Eating and Other Buzz Words

In my book, "Training on Empty," I mention intuitive eating, not in those exact words, but I address how difficult always tapping into our nutritional and dietary needs would be in the chaotic world in which we live. The idea behind intuitive eating is that our bodies have the wisdom to know what and how much we need, not just want, at any given moment. I don't believe it's possible or even necessary to be that grounded and in touch with your body and inner voice in order to recover, and I believe very few people who are normal and healthy do this 100 percent of the time. In fact, believing this is the answer to recovery can get people into trouble because our bodies aren't always 100 percent reliable when it comes to hunger cues, let alone signaling complete nutritional needs.

In saying this, however, I don't want to discourage anyone from being in touch with his or her internal signals. I'm all for giving yourself permission to eat what you want. I'm sure some will argue that they do fine eating intuitively, and I'm OK with that. It's great. I've always encouraged people to do what works for them. I'm just throwing out a word of caution for those who are in recovery to be aware of how difficult tossing out all dietary guidelines except your body's prompts can be. It's my strong opinion that using both intuitive eating along with some kind of relaxed meal plan is the best approach, especially for those taking their first steps toward recovery.

Once you're more solidly recovered, you have every right to choose what style of eating best serves you. Until then, it might take some work in order to understand and gather enough information to fully read what your body is telling you. Even then, I'm not entirely convinced that people can completely separate physical hunger cues from emotional cravings entangled in years of what society throws at us. My concern is that missed cues can lead to more missed cues, and that can lead to an increase in potentially dangerous behaviors. That's a lot of pressure on anyone. Learn to trust yourself, but also rely on sheer rational thought. The two work well together.

People like to claim that all children eat intuitively. They don't, or at least many of them don't. Parents unintentionally teach their kids to ignore their signs of hunger and often use food in some sort of a reward and punishment program, withholding food for bad behavior and offering goodies in exchange for good behavior. Even from a young age, kids are manipulated by a media that attempts to shape their food cravings. Commercials for sweets and fast food target youngsters. Big companies like McDonald's know how to direct content toward kids as young as four years old, and it's estimated that these kids see well over 200 of that particular corporation's ads each year.

I never ate intuitively when I was young, ever. Like many others, I was an emotional eater from a very young age. I was like one of those abandoned stray dogs that finally comes upon food and eats and eats and eats with no "I'm full" alarm alerting me to stop. As far back as I can remember, I had an intense hunger, at least I perceived it as hunger, that I couldn't seem to satisfy, and I never felt truly full. Obviously, I'm not suggesting that kids can't be wise about what they need, but reading hunger cues doesn't necessarily mean a child or adult will always eat the right foods in order to get adequate nutrition.

When not targeting young children, the media is busy promoting some fantasy or miracle plan for your diet and weight-related goals. On the one hand, we are encouraged to look a certain way, yet we are bombarded with images of decadent food and the false idea that we can eat whatever we want whenever we want and be thin. Oprah boasts about eating BREAD and PASTA every day while supposedly losing weight, like carbohydrates are some sort of taboo fare that only the very thin are allowed, and people suddenly think Weight Watchers has the answers to all their dietary needs. False.

People should be able to eat bread and pasta whenever they want. It's healthy to eat what your body craves, absolutely, but you also have to be aware that your body needs a wide variety of different nutrients, from protein, fats, and carbohydrates to vitamins and minerals. That's why having some loose guidelines without strict rules is better than diving into a complete free-for-all. Your size shouldn't really matter, but how your body and your brain operate depend a lot on what you put into it. A good dietitian will help you create a plan that focuses on foods you love and nutrient-dense foods that you might consider adding to your diet to increase overall health. Sometimes this kind of plan really does include bread and pasta on a daily bases. Ture.

I learned the hard way that eating sweets all the time caused me to crave more and more simple sugars, but when I ate a more reasonably sized daily dessert as part of a healthier meal plan, those terribly intense, out-of-control cravings faded. But that's my story. It doesn't have to be yours.

I love the idea of really listening to your cravings and honoring your hunger. I just think that it becomes complicated quickly to always rely on internal cues. It's a good goal to have, but there is no one definitive cue for hunger. People experience being hungry in a variety of ways, and one person can have varying internal cues. Some days, my body signals are clear and obvious, and other days, I have a hard time determining what I'm feeling. If I relied only on internal hints, I'm pretty sure I would miss some of them while navigating this crazy and often stressful reality called life. Sometimes I just have to look objectively at my diet and eat because I know I need to, not because an alarm inside has alerted me.

I'm the type that sees nothing wrong with having ice cream for breakfast or nachos for dinner now and then. I think emotional eating for comfort during horribly stressful times is not the worst thing on Earth, as long as you are aware and don't beat yourself up afterward. Obviously, learning healthy coping skills is better than turning to any kind of truly unhealthy behavior, but I don't see occasional comfort eating as anything abnormal. Those of us who have struggled in the past are so quick to judge ourselves harshly; the last thing we need is more pressure to eat a certain way. My suggestion remains the same that people should use what works for them. If there's no problem, don't fix it, but also don't assume that everyone else should follow the way you eat because it works for you.

Thursday, March 8, 2018

Stories

For whatever reason, my dip into the depression pool this spring is deeper and longer-lasting than in previous years. It doesn't help that my endometriosis symptoms have flared up and I'm still dealing with daily pain in my hips and feet. Managing pain on a daily basis is exhausting. Since I know myself well and know where the edge at the bank of the hellish black pit is, I'm not sitting back and doing nothing while waiting for my mood to improve this time. Sometimes riding out the downs on this rollercoaster is a reasonable choice; other times, it's not. It takes a lot for me to reach out, but I have, stubbornness be damned, for now. No, there's nothing anyone outside of the medical community can do. Depression is depression. I know how to keep myself relatively safe. I've been dealing with it since I was a child. Some months are just more challenging than others. Not turning to disordered eating during times like this is challenging, but I'm doing well in not swinging to any extremes.

When it comes to helping others, I often wonder what's most beneficial to those who are struggling with an eating disorder and want to get well. I don't believe there's one right answer. There are many groups that go about helping by simply sharing stories. I never found this approach helpful in terms of actual recovery, but it can be for some. It can also help people feel less alone, which is a step in the right direction. Oddly, when I joined a recovery group in college, I felt it kept me stuck in the disorder. The ladies in the group were so focused on their symptoms and stuck in their stories that nothing else was ever presented. Week after week, the same people would tell the same stories and go into the gory details, almost more to shock others than to offer any assistance. I find that a dialog is more beneficial, but everyone has his or her preference.

The longer I'm in recovery, the more I realize that if people are going to be more compassionate and accepting, it's society that needs to change. We live in a world that doesn't allow people to stray from the norm without being severely punished. This is especially true for women. We can't be too big, but we are also condemned if we swing too far in the opposite direction. At either end, we are called weak, failures, self-indulgent, or any number of other derogatory terms. Women have to walk an incredibly narrow path in order to be accepted, and we're all so obsessively aware of these fixed rules. Women mock themselves and others for having an appetite or being on a diet. People think it's acceptable, funny even, to suggest that all women feel fat, hate their bodies, or want to be thin. It's not. If you participate in this kind of rhetoric, you are so much a part of the problem.

It's unfortunate that we can't see the deeper issues behind being too big or too small and what "too" really means in each case. Who defines that point that goes beyond health, physical, emotional, and mental? How is the stereotype of "normal" identified? Who sets the parameters of how a body, someone else's body, should be? One out of many problems with the way our culture affects women's decisions around aesthetics is that those who fall even slightly outside of what's acceptable to the majority are pushed to the side more than those who walk the narrow line when both should matter and should be heard equally. The voice of someone who's considered too fat or too thin by an arbitrary and quite often absurd cultural standard still needs to be acknowledged, maybe even more so than those who fall in line and accept the status quo.

At my age, I never thought I would be dealing with anyone making unkind comments to me. Though it's not the same situation and unrelated to my weight, this kind of occurrence puts me right back into being the fat little girl who was relentlessly teased and bullied. I don't want anyone to ever have to experience the kind of torment I did or other people do for whatever reason. My childhood experiences left me afraid of confrontation, awkward around people, and uncomfortable in my own skin, no matter what my weight. As a society, we really, really need to stop focusing so intently on what others look like and appreciate more who they are and what they do.

Success really isn't a number on a scale, and you don't have to be a superhero to be successful. Another problem with society is the way it views achievements. The fear of mediocrity can keep anyone stuck or backsliding. What's so wrong with admiring people who participate in the daily grind, who get up day after day, go to work, keep their shit together and are generally decent people? The public is very greedy, needy, and self-centered. It's no wonder there are so many people who turn to eating disorders and addictions to cope. I wish I knew how to heal our very broken society.